21 May 2015
The police should investigate real crimes, not name-calling
Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern report that the police plan to record statements from Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali and several individuals to complete investigation over Azmin who had alleged called Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar as “Barua Umno” during the recent Permatang Pauh by-election.
This is a serious abuse of the Penal Code as the provisions, archaic as they are, were never meant to protect the police from public criticisms or insults. This latest case, adds to the alarming increase of arrests and charges under the Penal Code that were brought against persons who had allegedly criticised or insulted police personnel.
Some recent examples of those charged for offences against the police are as follows:
i. Section 499 – Criminal defamation
On 25 September 2014, a man who allegedly referred to a few policemen as “monkeys looking for extra income” in a Facebook posting was arrested at midnight from his home and remanded for three days.
ii. Section 504 – Intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace
On 15 September 2014, a Twitter user was charged for tweeting “Bastardization of @PDRMsia. Thanks to the ruthless@KBAB51. Henrich Himmler of Malaysia” in reference to IGP Khalid Abu Bakar.
iii. Section 509 – Word or gesture intended to insult the modesty of a person
On 12 August 2014, MP Tian Chua was charged for insulting the modesty of police personnel when he allegedly uttered some rude remarks when they came to seize his mobile phone.
The authorities should acknowledge that the police suffer from poor public image but this is unlikely to be improved by the further abuse of power for something as frivolous as name-calling which is not a crime, no matter how unpleasant it may be.
We wish to remind the IGP that the authority and respect for the police force do not come from fear but from public confidence and this in turn depends wholly on their own conduct and integrity.
The police can do wonders to their image by tackling corruption, abuse of power and death in custody cases. They should also stop targeting opposition politicians and dissidents for political offences especially sedition and public assembly.
We call on the police to go back to basics – to be a professional, impartial and competent police force in maintaining law and order, preventing and detecting real crimes and apprehending real criminals rather than be concerned with frivolous matters like defamation, insult and annoyance against the police.
Lawyers for Liberty
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